- Flow state is an experience of being in the zone, fully immersed in the process of an activity with energy, focus and joy.
- So what prevents us from experiencing this dynamic sense of fluidity and freedom more regularly in our lives?
- It might be helpful to examine your core vulnerabilities for deeper answers, we share some tips!
Flow state is an experience you already know, one of being in the zone, fully immersed in the process of an activity with energy, focus and joy. It’s the type of experience that comes to an end and you cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by.
It leaves you wondering where the hours went but, you hardly care because you were so enthralled with the task at hand. You might have this experience while absorbed in a work project, engaged in a stimulating workout or rapt in an amazing conversation with an inspiring person.
So what gets in the way? What prevents us from experiencing this dynamic sense of fluidity and freedom more regularly in our lives?
The yogis would call this type of stumbling block a Samskara, an engrained pattern, habit or condition that emerges again and again causing us to repeat an unhelpful thought or action which, in-turn, keeps us stuck and stagnant in an unhealthy cycle of behavior.
Western psychology might refer to these as survival strategies that emerged in young childhood as coping mechanisms to keep you feeling safe and in control of your environment. But, as you age, these coping strategies become outdated and prevent you from experiencing the present moment fully.
For example, when I was a little girl my parents got divorced, like so many of us experienced. My dad was also an alcoholic, albeit a very kind one but, it left me feeling unsafe and out of control at times. To help keep myself feeling safe, I planned. I packed my bags days in advance, organized my belongings and made sure everything had a place.
This control over my immediate environment kept me feeling safe in uncertain times but, as an adult, this manifests as constantly planning ahead, always living in the next moment rather than this moment. The constant planning prevents me from experiencing flow state because there is no room for spontaneity and a constant vigilance about controlling the environment around me.
In order to overcome this Samskara or habit, I have to let myself experience a core vulnerability - I have to be willing to feel out of control and uncertain. We can only overcome our Samskaras and enter into flow state through our willingness to experience our core vulnerabilities.
This can be scary, confronting and anxiety producing, which is why the practices of yoga, meditation and breath work are so important. These practices teach you that it’s ok to be uncomfortable, that you will survive your discomfort, and they also teach you how to be with your vulnerabilities in a loving, patient and compassion way.
It’s important to also thank your core vulnerabilities! As frustrating as they can be, they were created by your subconscious to protect you. While they may not be useful to you anymore, and may also be causing some harm in adulthood, it’s important to acknowledge these core vulnerabilities for the ways they’ve supported you.
Your core vulnerabilities may also be some of your greatest strengths! For example, my ability to plan and be organized is one of my super powers! My job is not to rid myself of the vulnerability but instead to learn how to use it in a positive way, in a way that helps me experience more flow, not less.
The next time you feel stuck, try this:
- Pause. Stop whatever you are doing and put your attention into your feet or whatever part of your body is touching something solid, such as your sitting bones on your chair. Put your attention into your body.
- Take a breath. Take a few, full, deep breaths. If you have the time, I would suggest six long breaths. Inhale through your nose, and exhale out of your mouth.
- Ask yourself, “what am I feeling right now that I don’t want to be feeling?” What action are you taking that is keeping you from feeling the core vulnerability that’s arising?
- Titrate your experience. Let yourself feel your core vulnerability for a moment and if it becomes too overwhelming, go back to your breath or body. Go back and forth between feeling your vulnerability and stepping away from it, like slowly immersing yourself into a very cold body of water. Over time, your window of tolerance will expand and eventually, you will be able to stay with your vulnerability longer.
- Ask yourself, “Is this causing me harm?” And, in most cases, the answer is probably, “no.” Although it might be incredibly uncomfortable to feel your vulnerability, it probably isn’t actually hurting you which is great news and you will start to see over time that you can be with it! This willingness to be with the moment will help you enter flow state with greater frequency as you practice overcoming old Samskaras and begin to experience life as it unfolds with spontaneity and presence.